NCL Christens Pride of Aloha

July 5, 2004
Under a near-cloudless blue sky on this most patriotic of days, NCL America's Pride of Aloha was officially christened today in Honolulu. The ceremony was held on the ship's pool deck and featured a variety of speakers -- mostly political in nature -- interspersed with truly marvelous Hawaiian performers. Margaret Inouye, wife of U.S. senator Daniel Inouye, handled godmothering duties -- and managed to smash the ceremonial bottle of champagne on Pride of Aloha's hull on the first go.

The ceremony seemed surprisingly low-key and what made the relative laid-back-ness of the event startling was that the launch of Pride of Aloha is a significant milestone in contemporary cruising.

A bit of back-story: seven years ago, in quite a political maneuver way-too-complicated for this space, the owners of American Classic Voyages, which operated the only U.S.-based ships in Hawaii, announced a big move: they were contracting with an American shipyard to build the first U.S.-flagged and -constructed modern ocean liners in recent history.

Alas, the line folded due to financial constraints just after September 11, 2001. At that time, it was in the process of building one ship -- which is now known as Pride of America and is in completion stages at a German shipyard -- and had acquired the materials (builders had already purchased many, from toilets to engines) for the second.

With some help from the U.S. government (and major concessions from NCL), the cruise line received the sanctions it needed to fly the American flag. Ultimately, the U.S. government gave NCL permission to launch three American-flagged ships in Hawaii. A victory alas, but not one easily won.

"The seas," says Inouye, a major supporter in Congress of NCL's efforts, who spoke at today's ceremony, "were turbulent at times, especially along the Potomac. But it's calm today."

NCL's president Colin Veitch, as is his habit, mischieviously tweaked heads of other major cruise lines, many of whom believed that the restrictions required to obtain the U.S.-flag designation (from tax issues to requirements of a significant percentage of American officers and crew) made the concept not only onerous but also near-impossible.

"We can confidently say, stealing from Shakespeare, that those who lie this day on the beach and in their sun loungers at their barbecues in Miami will think themselves accursed they were not here."

The christening ceremony wound up with Fourth of July streamers and red, white and blue confetti.

Intrigued by Pride of Aloha? Check out Cruise Critic's virtual series of daily journals from the ship's first Hawaii voyage, beginning Tuesday, July 6.